I had to post this fic because of a picture a good friend sent me. This is a baby Richie fic, and that is a baby Richie pic... well, baby Stan, well, toddler really. Okay, tried to post a link but no go... email me for a link. My email is on my bio page. Or go to and doa serch for SouthernChickie, that'll take you there, too.
But anyway. All you need to know for this fic is that in 1978 Mac and Tessa adopted Richie who had some hearing problems. For a full explination of the hows, whys and whats read either Dream and Dream of Days Gone By or The Prize (For Lack of a Better Title).
That was Tessa's new alarm clock. Every morning at seven fifteen she was woken up by a four year old bouncing excitedly on her bed.
"Good morning, Richie," she greeted the toddler, opening the covers so he could crawl in bed with her. "Did you have fun with Daddy?"
They had found Richie was an early riser, awake and ready for the day as Duncan was getting ready for his jog. So Tessa could sleep in, Duncan started taking Richie with him. They went out and bought a stroller made especially for taking young children along for a jog.
Every morning Duncan got Richie dressed, put him and Pooba in the stroller with a sippycup of milk and pushed them around town for five miles. Then while he showered…
"Let's make breakfast." Tessa got out of bed and put on her robe and Richie ran out to the kitchen. He told her about all the things he had seen while on his ride.
Duncan came out a few minutes later and set the table. "Who's taking Richie to therapy today?" he asked.
Richie was going to speech therapy three times a week while they were waiting for approval from their insurance company for him to have the surgery to fix his hearing problem.
"I can take him," Tessa said. "I need to run some errands on that side of town anyway."
After breakfast Richie settled down to watch Sesame Street, Duncan went down to open the store, and Tessa cleaned up the kitchen.
"Do you want to go shopping with Mama today?" she asked Richie, as she retied the laces on his Keds.
"Go chopping wif Mama!"
"But first we are going to go see Ms. Janine," Tessa told him. "Do you have to potty?"
Richie shook his head. "No poop!" he answered.
"Do you want to paint?"
She took his hand and took him to the cat walk above her work shop where her painting easel and Richie's smaller easel were set up. She blocked the stairs with the baby gate before letting go of Richie's hand.
"Put your shirt on," she told him.
While Richie put on one of Duncan's old shirts Tessa opened his finger paints and put a clean piece of paper up or him. Once she had him settled she sat down to work on her own painting.
"How are my favorite two artists?" Duncan asked, leading an old man and loyal customer into the workshop.
"Duh-duh!" Richie ran to the gate and held his paint covered arms out.
"Hello, Harold," Tessa smiled down.
"I heard there was a new member of the family," Harold answered in his gruff, friendly voice.
"And had I known you were coming I would have kept him clean."
"Duh-duh!" Richie repeated, straining to reach down as far as he could.
"Hi, Richie," he said, making no move to go up the stairs.
"Duh-duh!" Duncan knew that tone, that was Richie's 'come-here-now-or-I'm-going-to-cry-because-you-don't-love-me-anymore' tone.
"I'm coming," Duncan assured him with a sigh. Tessa handed Duncan the box of wet wipes to clean the paint off Richie's hands and arms.
"Bring him down here!" Harold called. "I want to meet this boy."
Duncan lifted Richie over the gate and carried him down the stairs.
"Well, if he isn't the most angelic looking boy," the old man smiled. "Margo would have loved him." He reached to ruffle Richie's hair. Richie jerked back on his father's hip and slapped the strange hand away, making an angry face.
"That wasn't very nice," Duncan told Richie.
"Heh, heh, heh," Harold laughed. "Quick little thing, isn't he?" He tired to pinch Richie's cheek, but was slapped away again. "How long have you had him?"
"Three weeks next Saturday."
"You keeping him?"
"He's our, officially adopted. He's not going anywhere… except to college in about fourteen years."
"How do his grandparents like him?"
"They haven't met, yet," Tessa said coming down the stairs after closing all the paints. "They tired to talk to him on the phone, but Richie couldn't understand. Between his hearing, their accents, and the overseas connection it didn't work out very well."
"How old is he again?"
"He's four, he'll be five in September."
"You seem quite comfortable as parents."
"We have a good kid," Duncan said. "Richie's an ideal child, very well behaved."
"Wa' Mama," Richie spoke up, reaching for Tessa.
"I need to get him ready to go, anyway." Tessa took Richie, said goodbye to Harold and took Richie inside the apartment.
"Stengewr," Richie whispered urgently as soon as the door closed.
"What was that?"
"Stengewr," he said point to the door. "Wif Duh-duh."
"Harold, the man with Daddy?"
"That is very smart of you," Tessa told him, taking him into the bathroom. "Because you don't know Harold. Is that why you didn't want him to touch you?"
"Stengewr sh baad."
"That's right. But when you are with Mama and Daddy you don't have to worry about strangers because we will always take care of you. Okay?"
"Time to go potty," she told him, unhooking the straps of his overalls.
She gave him some privacy and got a bag ready for the day with a change of clothes, a couple books, crayons, paper and a snack. By the time she was done Richie was standing on his step stool washing his hands, his overalls on the floor. She got him dressed again, brushed his hair, took him to give Daddy a goodbye kiss and loaded him into the car.
While Richie spent an hour working on his speech, Tessa went to her favorite department store and picked up a few things she needed. It was the first time she had been out without Richie at her side. More than once she went into a slight panic when she looked down and he wasn't there.
"Tessa?" a woman's voice caught her attention.
She turned around. "Eliza, how are you?" she greeted her hair dresser.
"Enjoying some rare time alone without the kids, you?"
"I feel very lost without my child," Tessa laughed.
Eliza smiled broadly. "Did you adoption go though?"
"Yes, it did."
"Oh, congratulations!" Eliza gave her a strong hug. "Who are you mommy to?"
"His name is Richie; he's four."
"Oh what a great age," she smiled. "I remember when my boys were that age."
"How old are they now?"
"Ten and thirteen," Eliza sighed. "They used to be so cute, but now…"
Tessa laughed. "They can't be that bad."
"Oh, yes they can. Just you wait. You're sweet little boy is going to turn on you."
"Don't tell me that," she protested. "He's too sweet to turn on me."
"You know, I would love to meet the little boy who stole your good sense," Eliza said. "Why don't we have dinner?"
"That would be lovely. How about tomorrow?"
"That would be great. My boys will be at their father's, but Kyle and I can. Would you rather go out or stay in?"
"We can go out."
"What food will Richie eat?"
"Oh, anything. He's not picky at all. I don't think there's any type of food he hasn't had."
"How does he like Chinese?"
"Then why don't we meet at the new Chinese buffet on Wilmer…Say 7:30?"
"Make it seven and we'll be there."
"I'll see you then."
Tessa finished her shopping just in time to pick Richie up. He way laying on the floor on his stomach coloring and sing songing what he hear in the headphones he was wearing.
"Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da…"
Ms. Janine was listing to Richie while she helped him color his picture. She looked up with Tessa let herself in. She smiled and tapped Richie on the shoulder.
He looked up at her. "Di, di, di, di, di, di…" he sang.
She took his headphones off. "Mama's here."
Richie looked up and sure enough, there as his Mama smiling down at him.
"Were you a good boy?"
"Yes he was," Ms. Janine answered. "He learned a new word today."
"You did?" Tessa squatted down next to him. "What did you learn?"
Richie smiled his toothless grin. "Dadi!" he told her, pushing the two syllables as closely together as he could.
"Oh, what a smart boy!" Tessa gave him a big hug. "Say it again."
"My smart baby!" She kissed him. "Wait until we show your Daddy!"
But Richie had to wait through a trip to the grocery store before he got to show off his new word. Tessa sat Richie in the front of the cart and buckled the strap around his waist before she gave him a baggie of gram crackers and a cup of juice.
"What are we going to do when we get home?" she asked him, as she pushed him up and down the aisles.
"You want to play a game? Which one?"
Richie thought about it, but soon a small baby being carried by its mother caught his eye.
"Isss a baybi," he said, putting his finger to his lips. "Shh…seep-ng"
"Okay," Tessa whispered as they walked past the baby.
She loaded up the cart with everything from wine to apple juice, shaving cream to spill proof cups, Oreos to veal. Richie got to help pick out which flavor of Teddy Grams he wanted, and which fruit he liked the best.
Tessa was putting away groceries and Richie was watching Shining Time Station when Duncan came up from closing the store.
"Hey, tough guy," Duncan gave Richie a gentle noogie as he passed.
"Hai, Dadi," Richie answered.
Duncan smiled at him then started to go to Tessa, but stopped midstep. He looked at Tessa. "What did he just say?" he asked.
Tessa smiled. "He learned a new word today."
"Is that word what I think it is?"
Tessa shrugged. "Why don't you ask him?"
Duncan went back to Richie, who was sitting on the couch, still watching TV. "Richie, Mama tells me you learned a new word today. Can you tell me what it is?"
"Dadi," Richie said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Duncan smiled broadly. "Say it again."
"Ha!" Duncan picked Richie up and swung him in the air. "Who's Daddy?"
"Ju Dadi!" Richie giggled.
"Muwa!" Duncan gave Richie a kiss on the head, then swung him around in the air again. "I'm Daddy!" he told Tessa proudly. "He got it right!"
Richie laughed and giggled as Duncan swung him around the room, kissed him, and tossed him in the air.
"This deserves a special treat!" he decided. "Tessa, I'm closing early and taking my boy out of an ice cream."
"Duncan, it's nearly nap time," Tessa laughed. "He'll never get to sleep now!"
"So we'll put him to bed early," he said getting Richie's jacket out of the closet. "This is a very big deal. Didn't you do something special for him when he said Mama?"
"I made him cookies," she said.
"And I'm taking him for ice cream." He put Richie's jacket on and picked the boy up. "Give Mama a kiss." Richie leaned to Tessa and kissed her cheek.
She gave him a kiss and a hug. "Be good for Daddy."
Richie was ready for bed nearly an hour earlier than usual that night. Duncan made him a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner and Tessa gave him a bath before he got two bedtime stories.
Despite his changed sleeping schedule the day before Richie was awake and waiting to go on his morning ride when Duncan came in the next morning.
Duncan smiled and picked Richie up. "I love hearing you say that."
Duncan spent the day with Richie while Tessa tended to the store. They played games, worked on his letters, and did speech exercises. But mostly they played.
'What's my name?" Duncan asked him.
"Dadi!" Richie promptly replied.
"Who's the best Daddy every?"
"Who is the best Mama ever?"
"That's right." He tickled Richie's stomach. The little boy shrieked and giggled. "And who's the smartest, cutest, funniest, best little boy ever?" Richie tried to answer but he couldn't speak over the giggling. "You are!"
He picked Richie up, held him on his back and put his face into Richie's stomach and made growling noises. Richie laughed loudly, his face red and his eyes watering.
"What are you doing?" Tessa laughed as she turned to corner and found Duncan "eating" Richie's stomach.
"Playing beat the child," he answered, holding Richie upside down and shaking him a bit.
"G'Mama!" Richie giggled.
"What?" Duncan turned him right side up.
"You want to get Mama?"
"Oh, no you don't," Tessa smiled. "I'm going to get you!"
"Get her!" Duncan ran with Richie under on arm to Tessa so he could tickle her.
Richie's little fingers couldn't quite tickle, yet, so he scratched happily at Tessa's stomach. She squirmed and giggled and tickled him back. They played until it was time to go to dinner.
"If you're a good boy," Duncan said, buckling Richie into his stroller. "We will have a picnic in the park tomorrow."
"Yes, swings are in the park," Tessa smiled. "So if you want to go swing tomorrow you have to be a big boy and use your inside voice an stay in your seat. So will you be a good boy?"
"Hold on tight to Pooba," Duncan told him, shouldering a bag with a just in case sandwich and apple, plus a few small toys that Richie could play with if he got restless. "Here we go!" They walked in the pleasant air quietly the few blocks to the restaurant.
"Kidy!" Richie exclaimed, pointing at the good luck porcelain cat behind the hostess stand.
"Yes, that is a kitty," Tessa told him with a smile. "What does a kitty say?"
Tessa pointed out Eliza and Kyle, who were already seated.
"How do we know them again?" Duncan asked as they made their way to the table.
"She does my hair at the salon."
"Oh, Tessa, he's so cute," Eliza gasped. She got down and knelt next to Richie. "What's your name?"
"Rishgurd," he replied softly.
"Richard," Tessa mimicked with a smile as she let him out of the stroller. "Can you say hi?"
"Hai," he said, hiding his face in her shoulder.
"Are you shy?" Eliza cooed at him. "I'm not going to hurt you."
He kept his face hidden. "Dadi," he said softly.
"Duncan, he wants you," Tessa handed Richie over.
From Duncan's hip Richie hid his face behind Pooba and watched the two strangers and his parents talk.
"Are you hungry?" Duncan asked him after a few minutes. He nodded. "Lets go get you some food." He took him over to the buffet tables and got a plate. "Tell me what you want." He slowly walked past the trays of food.
"Ish tot?" Richie pointed at a tray.
"You want to try one?"
"Pesh," Richie said, remembering his manners.
"Okay." He put one on the plate. "Oh, look, you like these." He pointed at the Chinese potstickers.
"We'll get a couple of these."
He filled up Richie's plate adding some shrimp, chicken and vegetables. He carried Richie and the plate back to the table, where the other adults had already started on soup. Duncan put the plate down and while Tessa cut up the food, he settled Richie into a booster seat in the chair between himself and Tessa.
Richie settled down to eat, Pooba in one hand, his fork in the other. He tuned out the adults and people watched, smiling and waving when someone noticed him.
"How old are you, Richie?" Eliza asked him.
Richie looked at Tessa and didn't answer.
"Tell her how old you are," she prompted.
"Four. You're a big boy."
"S'bug boi," Richie nodded, then turned back to his chicken and carrots.
"I don't mean to pry…" Eliza said softly to Tessa. "But what's wrong with his speech? He doesn't sound like he's four."
"He has a bit of a hearing problem. He actually just started talking a few weeks ago."
"We can fix it with a minor surgery. We're just waiting to hear form the insurance company."
When Tessa had finished her soup she waited for Richie to finish his food before taking him back to the buffet tables. She filled her own plate with Chow Mien and got Richie the sushi and egg roll he wanted.
"Ish tot?" he asked, pointing at a tray.
"Octopus," she told him.
Richie looked at her with a blank stare. "Huh?"
"Oc-to-pus," she repeated. "Do you want to try one?"
"Okay." She put him down and handed him his plate. "Hold that and stay close to Mommy." She put one hand behind his head to keep contact as she led him back to the table.
"What do you have there?" Duncan asked putting Richie's plate on the table and helping the little boy into his booster seat.
"What's that?" Duncan asked, pointing at the tiny squid.
"Why did you get it?"
"Ahm gown twry."
Kyle laughed. "Your kid wants to try new foods on his own? Are you sure he's a human child?"
"He's just curious about everything."
Richie meanwhile, had stabbed his octopus with his fork and was examining it. He looked it over, sniffed at it, then put it in his mouth. As soon as he chewed, his face scrunched up, his jaw dropped open, and he made a little unhappy noise.
"His face," Eliza laughed.
"Richie, do you like it?" Tessa asked.
He shook his head, then spit the partially chewed food into his hand. "Dadi, uckie." He handed it to Duncan.
"Thank you, Richie." He put the food in a napkin and went to throw it away and wash his hands.
By the end of the night Richie had crawled into Tessa's lap and fallen asleep, after having told her "Ahmshidy" a few times. The four adults and tried to figure out what the word meant, but couldn't figure it out. It didn't help that Richie tended to squish an entire sentence into one word. Richie slept soundly though loud laughing, a spilt drink, and a dropped tray.
Tessa looked down at the sleeping child cuddled into her chest. "I'm sleepy," she realized. "He was telling us he was tired."
"Well, now we know what 'umsidy' means." Duncan helped her up so she could adjust Richie to a more comfortable position. "Do you got him?"
"I've got him."
They said their goodbyes and set off to walk back home. Duncan pushed the stroller with the babybag in it and Tessa carried Richie.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take…" she sighed. "I can't understand my own baby."
"It is getting ridiculous," he agreed. "He's really smart, he just doesn't sound it."
"The doctors are certain the surgery will fix this. They say after that he should catch up easily."
"I'll call the insurance company again," Duncan said. "I don't want him to go to school without the surgery. He won't be able to keep up and he'll get made fun of."
"So are we agreed that if he can't have the surgery we'll keep him out of school another year?" Tessa asked.
"He's pre-school aged. Pre-school is not a requirement. So if we keep him out, next year we can put him in kindergarten."
They walked the rest of the way in quiet. When they got home Richie slept through getting changed into his pajamas and tucked into bed. Duncan and Tessa kissed him goodnight, put on his night light, turned on the baby monitor, turned off the overhead light, and closed the door.